Prisco's 2017 NFL Playoffs divisional picks: Falcons, Patriots, Steelers, Packers win
The divisional round should deliver after a dud of a Wild Card Weekend
We had bad football games for Wild Card Weekend -- none decided by fewer than 10 points -- but this week's divisional round brings a lot of intrigue and should bring some good football as the league plays down to four teams.
Aside from the Texans, who are limited on offense, would it shock to see any of the other seven teams make a strong push to the Super Bowl?
That's why sitting through the boring wild-card games should bring us to a fun round this week. Now for the picks:
Saturday, Jan. 14
No. 3 Seattle at No. 2 Atlanta
TV: 4:35 p.m. ET (Fox)
These two teams met in Seattle in Week 6 and the Seahawks won 26-24, but the Falcons rallied in the second half behind their passing game. I think that's the big issue here for the Seahawks. Can they cover well enough without Earl Thomas in the deep middle? I don't think they can. The Falcons scored 540 points this season to lead the league as Matt Ryan appears on his way to the MVP. The Seahawks looked good beating the Lions in the wild-card round, but this is a big step up in opponent. Russell Wilson might be forced to win a shootout here with Ryan. I just don't think that happens. The Falcons get to the title game.
Pick: Falcons 31, Seahawks 17
No. 4 Houston at No. 1 New England
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Patriots have dominated the Texans over the years, beating them 27-0 in Week 3 this season with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. Tom Brady is back now, which isn't a good thing for the Texans' top-ranked defense. Houston looked good on defense last week, but that was Connor Cook for the Raiders. This will be Brady and his quick passing game. Can the Texans get to him? If they can, the Patriots might have issues. I just don't think the Texans will be able to put up too many points here with Brock Osweiler against the league's top scoring defense. The Texans defense will keep it close for a while, but in the end Brady will get it going and pull it out in the second half.
Pick: Patriots 23, Texans 13
Sunday, Jan. 15
No. 3 Pittsburgh at No. 2 Kansas City
TV: 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
This shapes up as a game that will be decided by the Chiefs defense and its ability to slow down Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. They were all impressive in the Steelers' blowout of the Dolphins last Sunday. Kansas City doesn't have great defensive numbers -- finishing ranked 24th in total defense and 26th against the run. That could be good news for Bell. But the Chiefs led the NFL in takeaways with 33 and they have a good pass rush led by Justin Houston. On the other side, the Steelers defense has really improved in the past eight games, which will make it tough for Alex Smith and company. This should be a close game, which means Tyreek Hill and his return ability could be the difference. I think in the end, the Steelers offense will be too much for the Chiefs if Roethlisberger's ankle isn't an issue. He plays, and it won't be. Pittsburgh moves on.
Pick: Steelers 26, Chiefs 20
No. 4 Green Bay at No. 1 Dallas
TV: 4:40 p.m. ET (Fox)
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be making his first playoff start. He has handled everything so far, but this is another challenge. The way the Packers are playing on offense, it might be on him to win this one. Aaron Rodgers has been unstoppable the past eight weeks, and he is coming off a four-touchdown pass game against a good Giants defense. The Cowboys aren't as good as that defense. I would expect Rodgers to get his again here, which will put pressure on the Dallas offense to keep up. They want to run it, so if they can do that and keep the ball away from Rodgers that would be the ideal. Green Bay is decent against the run on defense, though. Look for Rodgers to continue his roll. Packers take it in an upset.
Pick: Packers 28, Cowboys 27
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